The J2ME games just keep on comin'
Steve Litchfield looks at more J2ME games available through Nokia's Download! system and ClickGamer.com
In my previous feature, I looked at some of the Java games available through Nokia's on-device Download! system . Consider this article part 2, in which I widen the scope of the Java titles to include some that are available through network portals and through sites like ClickGamer. Are any of them any good? Which ones should you look out for? Has Java gaming come of age? Can any title rival the upcoming N-Gage games? In no particular order...
David Coulthard GP
Car racing games are fairly common in the Java world (you'll see at least one more below), but this one's had some time spent in making it fairly polished. With good cut-scene and menu design behind you, you then head out onto the track., which is where the game lives or dies. The pseudo-3D graphics work well enough and move reasonably quickly (especially since this is a Java game), but the handling of your GP car is well and truly in the 'arcade' mould rather then being realistic. Provided you approach David Coulthard GP as a fun arcade racer, you'll have no beef with forking out £4 or so for a little adrenaline-fueled action. Available through: ClickGamer.
Even better value (at £3) is this sultry, atmospheric and surprisingly addictive ten pin bowling simulation. Although the 3D in-lane graphics never veer into superlative territory, the general graphics are superb, with lighting effects, characters and plenty of mood. Bowling power is via a 'press to stop' meter and, once aimed and delivered, you can also apply spin to the ball, all via the d-pad. With appropriate sound effects, even the slightly awkward skittle fall close-ups didn't stop me really enjoying Midnight Bowling and, to be honest, it's even possible to forget that you're playing a humble Java midelet game. Recommended. Available through: Download! on your device.
Deal or No Deal
[tech note: the game prevented me from taking screenshots of the actual in-game play]
Although I find it hard to express my indignation that someone's managed to turn choosing a random number between 1 and 25 into a national phenomenon, there's no doubting the show's success or indeed the quality of this Java version. With superb production values in terms of its cut scenes and gameplay, Deal or No Deal works rather well on the mobile, playing against the odds and the computer banker. And, thankfully, you can skip the annoying Mr Edmonds's trite remarks if you want to, something that's tricky on the TV version. A perfect mobile conversion and a great way to while away 10 minutes on the train or bus. Available through: Download! on your device.
As hinted above, driving games are ten a penny in the J2ME world. Juiced is a new entrant that's let down a lot by the frame rate in the main game. With music on and with the 3D world passing by (note I didn't say 'whizzing by'), the frame rate often drops down to 3 or 4 fps, making Juiced a very jerky racer indeed. It's pitched with an arcade model (of course), so we're not talking realistic handling either. Add in the fact that it's too easy to slam around the city circuit and win and you end up with a rather unsatisfactory way to spend £4 of your hard earned money. Available through ClickGamer.
Cuddles the Panda
I have to confess that my daughter asked for this one! You'd think it was a proper virtual pet - you know, beeping at you for feeding all the time like a Tamagotchi, but despite an 'info' panel with the usual happiness, hungriness style indicators, Cuddles is really just a novelty item, to help one of your children while away 20 minutes during a boring car journey. Bath time is just an animation, Dress up lets the user play with different hairstyles and clothes for the panda(!), while Kiss Chase is the only genuine mini-game, with Pacman-style action while you chase a girl panda around a maze eating dots. There's a Shop where you can buy things with your Kiss Chase-earned points, but it all ultimately still falls in the kids novelty genre - which may be all you need on a family trip. Available through ClickGamer.
Yup, it's the game of the movie and it takes its theme seriously. The aim in Ratatouille is to assemble and prepare foods to meet a variety of ordered dishes in a busy restaurant. This game genre has been doing well in the handheld console world recently, but it's let down here by the implementation in QVGA. The chef sprite, control numbers (each to assign the next kitchen location to walk to, etc) and other elements are just painfully small. Once at each location, a novel left/right function button asignment lets you pick up to two objects/foodstuffs in either virtual hand, and then it's down to combining foods and er.... actually cooking. A tutorial mode (Cook School) is very helpful, after which you're into the main simulation (Busy Bistro). If you're into the cooking concept then it's worth persevering with, but I can't stand cooking in the real world and quickly decided I had even less time for it on my smartphone! Available through Download!
Yes, it's theory it's Frozen Bubble all over again, at least the basic premise is the same, but it's tarted up very professionally with a back story (yes really), loads of areas/levels (count 'em - over 100) and innovative game modes, bomb/chameleon bubbles (to name but two) - and some really quite cute animations of an island dweller and his girlfriend. Add in some nice sound effects, a pretty blue beach scene and extra 'rewards' when you finish a level and you get a J2ME game that's terrific value for money - and quite addictive! Available through Download!
Pro Rally Racing
Yet another racing game (you see, I told you so), also professionally strung together with a few nice doses of atmosphere and an involved series of unlockable rally courses across the world. The racing itself is just as arcade-oriented as David Coulthard GP above, although with a slightly slower frame rate. The course elements are somewhat repetitive too, the level of difficulty not high enough and somehow there's just not the right level of addictiveness to keep players interested in actually driving around the world. Available through Download!
Kevin Pietersen Cricket 2007
Cricket has never been that popular a subject for computer games and it's easy to see why. Even limited overs games in the real world take many hours - the sheer number of individual balls bowled would make for a fairly tedious game. Though that hasn't stopped a number of developers trying over the years. Kevin Pietersen Cricket 2007 looks as though it might succeed, with a good menu structure, mixing net practice with individual and tournament matches, but it lets itself down, as most other cricket games do, in trying to provide an intuitive interface to mimic the real thing. The keypad is mapped to nine different possible shots, each of which has to be timed perfectly - with the nine shots seemingly randomly assigned, it's going to be a very dedicated cricket fan who learns the lot well enough to decide on and successfully execute a shot in the half a second you get after the ball's left the bowler's hand. I tried and failed. Sorry. Cricket die-hards with plenty of patience only, please. Available though Download!
As a footnote to this second batch of reviews, note that one of my worries from the first piece , that of how to back up your bought games and not have to pay for them again when you want to reinstall, has been solved with a little workaround from the AAS support section . Worth noting if you fancy grabbing any of these titles.
Steve Litchfield, AllAboutSymbian, 10 Dec 2007
Published by Steve Litchfield at 11:47 UTC, December 7th